Best bets column |

Best bets column

by Roger Ellison

Happy New Year, everyone!

Of course, there would be no better way to start the new year than with a bunch of winning bets. Hopefully these predictions can make that possible. If nothing else, though, I’m going to enjoy the rest of the college football season because by Tuesday evening, it all comes to an end.

As of Wednesday night, a very noticeable trend in the bowl games remained firmly intact – each one had gone Under the total. Last year at this time, every game had gone Over, but in the second week about half of the games continued the trend. So, I expect about a 50-50 split among the Overs and Unders in the bowl games that are left.

I’ll start the predictions with the Saturday games.

Outback Bowl at Tampa, Fla. – This should be a fun game to watch. Both Purdue and Georgia like to throw the ball, and neither team has a pass defense. The advantage must go to the Boilermakers, however, as they provide better protection with their offensive line for Heisman Trophy finalist and quarterback Drew Brees.

Also, there have been no upsets in the 11-year history of this bowl. Purdue -5 and Over 66.

Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, Fla. – This one should be another entertaining shootout. Georgia Tech suffered at the end of the regular season because of injuries to its already porous defense, but the Yellow Jackets hung in there with a very potent offensive attack.

Miami (Fla.) got a boost this week with the announcement that quarterback Kenny Kelly is healthy enough to start. Miami -4 and Over 69.

Florida Citrus Bowl at Orlando, Fla. – Michigan State lost head coach Nick Saban at the end of the regular season. You might think that this is a disadvantage, but assistant coach Bobby Williams was promoted.

Williams is well-liked and respected, as evidenced by the fact that all of Saban’s assistants also stayed at Michigan State. Florida has been having problems selling tickets for the game in nearby Orlando because Gator fans know their team has been struggling to score points. Michigan State +2.

Rose Bowl at Pasadena, Calif. – Stanford appears to be in deep trouble here. After losing its best defensive lineman at the end of the year, now the Cardinals must face Wisconsin without the services of injured Biletnikoff Award winner and all-American receiver Troy Walters.

Stanford’s biggest problem, though, will be stopping the Badgers’ ground attack, because teams that have shown the ability to run, such as Washington, Notre Dame and Texas, have had their way with the Cardinal defense. Of course we all know about the talent of Wisconsin running back and Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne. Wisconsin -13.

Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, La. – Thank God the Bowl Championship Series poll got it right this time by pitting undefeated teams Virginia Tech and Florida State in college football’s version of the Super Bowl. I’m not saying for sure these are the two best teams, but no one can argue with an undefeated national champion.

The stupidest and saddest part of the BCS poll is that after all that time and effort put into the process, we could have used a coaches’ and Associated Press poll and come up with the same contest.

As for the game itself, a lot has been made about Florida State’s experience in championship settings, but Bobby Bowden’s only title came in 1993 when none of his current players were on the roster. Also, in his 47 years of coaching, Bowden has never finished a season with a perfect record.

Virginia Tech comes into the game with a point to prove. The Hokies want to show America that they belong with the likes of Florida State. Tech possesses the top rated passer in that nation and my Heisman Trophy choice, Michael Vick, not to mention a very strong defense and superb special teams.

When you look at common opponents Virginia, Clemson and Miami, Tech outscored them 105-28, while FSU beat them 83-45. Another strike against State is that since the AP started doing preseason polls back in 1950, there never has been a a wire-to-wire champion, and the Seminoles would be the first.

Throw in the fact that Bowden himself admits that it’s an advantage being No. 2 going up against No. 1, and you’ll see many things are pointing in Virginia Tech’s favor. And wouldn’t it be nice for the team that has avoided the off-the-field problems to represent the NCAA as the deserving champion? Virginia Tech +5.

Other bowl choices: Alabama -2 vs. Michigan; Texas -8 vs. Arkansas; Minnesota -2 vs. Oregon; Boston College +7 vs. Colorado.

I have no opinion on the other games, including Nebraska-Tennessee.

Pro picks:

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal betting columnist.